Ricochet recently spoke with Justin Barrasso of SI.com about various topics. Here are the highlights.
SI.com: AJ Styles is another of SI’s Wrestlers of the Year. Were you surprised how well he acclimated himself into WWE?
“I wasn’t surprised at all. It’s just awesome to see him there, and for a while, I thought it was never going to happen. I’m not surprised at how quick he caught on because he’s legitimately the best in the last ten years – maybe Kenny Omega was better than him this year, but for the last decade, AJ Styles has been the best. It’s a different business now. Chuck Taylor was talking about how the Hardys were small guys, but the Hardys are huge. There are spots for big guys, but it doesn’t need to be all big guys. AJ Styles has proven you can still get over and still do your thing by being the best guy. Devitt – Finn Balor – is another guy. I’m bigger than Devitt, and he went in, first night, and won the Universal title. I think it’s just changing.”
SI.com: Why aren’t you on Smackdown or Raw, or even WWE’s 205 Live cruiserweight show?
“Right now, I’m enjoying New Japan. I want to focus on that, and that’s another reason why I’m going to take a lighter schedule in 2017 to focus on Japan. I want to do a lot more New Japan, and I’m really focused on winning the IWGP junior heavyweight championship. I want that title so bad. I’ve always had goals, and that is my last goal. After that, I can focus on the long distance future. The guys on the 205 Live cruiserweight show are awesome – my boy Swann is killing it. But that’s not the route I want. I want to go the Fergal Devitt route. Seth Rollins. Kevin Owens. That’s the route I want to take. I want to work my way up from NXT champion to U.S. or Intercontinental champion. I have goals, and I’m not willing to settle. This is nothing against the cruiserweights on 205, but it’s just not for me. My girlfriend, Tessa [Blanchard], was just on Raw [during the bar scene with Cesaro and Sheamus]. I actually drove her there. We were in North Carolina spending time with her family, and she got called a day before. It was pretty cool. I just went golfing the other day with Sami Callihan and Tully Blanchard [Author’s note: Tessa is the daughter of Tully Blanchard] . We played eighteen holes, and Tully won by one-hundred swings. Me and Sami had a match in Iowa, and he gave us some advice, as did Magnum T.A. How cool is that to get advice from Tully Blanchard and Magnum T.A.? They’re both really cool guys and they don’t put you down when they give you advice – they’re trying to help you. Kurt Angle just gave me some advice in Scotland, and he did it purely to help me. Rey Mysterio is the same way – he just wants to help you out, and I think that’s so cool.”